A Christmas Trick or Treat

A Christmas Trick or Treat

145 Pine Close is occupied by two witches. Marbella is the younger of the two, with fiery red hair that tends to literally set alight when she’s angry. Her eyes are a vivid blue which pierce the souls of those who look into them, making it impossible for them to lie to her. She’s a playful soul and uses her magic largely for her own entertainment (and sometimes to get revenge on those who irritate her). Her older sister Anabelle, works as a lawyer and wears half-moon spectacles to make her more intimidating, although her eyesight is perfect. Despite appearing to be in her early thirties she is, in fact, two-hundred and twenty one – with an emphasis on the twenty-one if you ask her.

Marbella came home from work in a mischievous mood. Her office arch-enemy had come into work that morning to find a confidential file floating above her desk. She’d snatched it out of the air and replaced it in a drawer, but when she poured her coffee later on, she found her mug had developed a tendency to pour its contents onto vital papers when she wasn’t looking. Of course nobody believed this, and to onlookers it seemed that she’d entirely lost the plot. That ended up as the official reasoning for her suspension. Time out for her health.

Marbella couldn’t contain her glee, but her sister hadn’t been quite so impressed with the trick.That night, while Marbella slept, Anabelle slunk downstairs and placed a locking spell on the front door. The next morning, the redhead found herself unable to leave the house, and set fire to the coat rack in her rage. After hours of boredom and anger she decided to leave a little trick for her older sister. A festive treat should do the trick: after all, who better to define a new kind of trick-or-treat than a witch?

Without moving from the armchair she heated the oven and stirred a batch of gingerbread. When the batch was mixed, she approached the bowl and blew into it. A witch’s’ breath meant life, everybody knew that. She used her hair, still smouldering, to light a cigarette and smoked it through the window as the biscuits baked.

When Anabelle arrived home, the smell of freshly baked goods still echoed through the flat. She smiled and closed her eyes, she knew Marbella would forgive her. Slowly, to savour the smell, Anabelle walked into the kitchen and picked up a little gingerbread boy. Her sister had iced denim trousers and a Christmas jumper onto him, completed with a grinning face. For a moment, Anabelle thought the biscuit winked at her, that the grin was a little unfriendly, but she disregarded it and closed her eyes as she pushed it into her mouth.

She screamed. As she’d gone to bite the biscuit, the biscuit had bitten back! Anabelle dropped her attacker as her sister appeared, laughing, in the doorway.

“Got you!” She sang, grinning cruelly at the woman who’d kept her on house arrest all day long. Anabelle healed her lip without moving and glared back at her sister.

The next day, Anabelle moved out, leaving an enchanted snowman melting on the living room carpet to say her farewells. Marbella stared at it in disbelief and wandered halfheartedly into the kitchen to make breakfast. She produced a sharp intake of breath when she opened the cupboard to find her cereal box torn open, dribbling its dwindling contents onto the shelf. Her first thought was ‘mouse!’ but after a speedy ‘reveal’ enchantment, that fear was disproved and she was back to square one.

She cleared the mess and made toast instead. A tiny twinkle of guilt, barely noticeable, began to burn in the back of Marbella’s brain. She enchanted a lamp stand to keep her company with chatter, but really she may as well have been talking to herself. That evening, Marbella opened the fridge and set about making herself dinner.It was a complicated meal and she’d chosen to cook it the human way, mixing with her hands rather than her brain. Part of the way through her culinary practice, Marbella went to scoop her onions into the frying pan, only to find that half had gone. Minutes later, her knife had moved across the surface to the other side of the room.

This continued while she cooked, and then into her meal. Every time she glanced away she found parts of her dinner had vanished. Then her wine glass tipped itself over. As red wine soaked into her white skirt she caught a glimpse of something in the corner of her eye. Something tiny and brown with iced denim trousers and a Christmas jumper. That Gingerbread beast!

Squealing in frustration she dived after her creation, but missed, colliding with the floor face first. She chased the outlawed biscuit around the room for forty-five minutes before she finally caught it. He dangled in the air, his foot pinched between her dainty fingers, begging for mercy.

“Lemme go you! Lemme go! I aint done nothing, only what I was told!” She scowled at the little man and her hair launched a few flames into the air.

“What you were told?”

“By the other lady. She made me do it, said I’d go back to sleep if I stopped!”

“Stopped what?”

“Annoying you… sorry… Told me to eat stuff, steal stuff, basically cause mischief… teach you a lesson.”

“Right. Well the thing is,  brought you to life you silly creature… only can put you back to sleep again. So you wanna stay awake? You don’t be causing any trouble, you hear?”

The little gingerbread man nodded enthusiastically and sighed as she stood him on the floor at her feet. She enchanted a new batch of gingerbread and crafted it into a house as it floated in the air, keeping a stern eye fixed on mischievous chap sat at her feet. She placed him the house and sent a thought to summon her sister.

When Anabelle arrived, she thought it might be a trick and took each step warily. Each bite of her dinner was consumed with an eye on the gingerbread house which stood on a coffee table in the corner of the room. When her sister’s distraction became too much, Marbella decided it was time to apologise, and she did so. She looked her sister in the eye and told the story of what her biscuit had done. She apologised for causing trouble and always bringing chaos into their lives. By the end of the meal they were friends again. Older sister, still slightly wary of the younger, but forgiving all the same.

They allowed the Gingerbread Man, now named Kermit, to live in his minuscule Gingerbread house in the corner of their flat for the rest of their lives there. Neither of them ate, or baked, gingerbread again.

 

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Marmite.

Marmite.

Why are cats so lovable?

They scag our clothes getting themselves comfortable, sometimes they scag our furniture too! They meow constantly for our attention. They steal our food if we leave it unattended. They spend most of their time sleeping. But we love them anyway.

Or, at least, I do.

There’s the scientific thing about their purring at a rate which is calming to humans, and the fact that they’re supposed to be quite intelligent – you’d certainly think so when watching the plots Marmite used to steal food right off my plate. But to me, I think the most prevalent reason for our loving cats is their companionship.

When I was off work due to ill health, Marmite would sit with me for hours purring on my lap and pressing buttons on my keyboard as I typed. She would nuzzle my hand while I held coffee and spill it all over me, and nuzzle my phone as I tried to type messages or play games. They say that you either love or hate Marmite, and unless you weren’t a cat person I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t love her.

If you’ve read last month’s series on The Pet Feud you’ll know a little about my cat, and her interactions with my dog. I used a bit of creative license while writing the series, as obviously I couldn’t ask them what their opinions of each other really were. While they really did dislike each other at first, my dog clearly wanted Marmite as a playmate; and although Marmite did get irritated with the dog’s constantly following her, I think she saw her as a lovable rogue.

You’ll notice this isn’t my usual Monday story post and there’s a reason for that. Marmite was in an accident on Sunday night. She’d gone a little senile at 16 years of age, and seemed to enjoy standing in the middle of the road – Queen of the World – expecting cars to stop for her I suppose, or maybe not seeing them at all. But on Sunday night someone didn’t see her and didn’t stop for her. She was brought to the hospital and we were able to say goodbye, with her nuzzling my hand (very gently) until the very end.

So I’m sorry for not providing what I usually would but I wanted to post an ending to the Pet Feud series with a message about how much we love cats in memory of my beautiful friend, Marmite.

Battle Cry. 

Battle Cry. 

Julie stood on the fringe of the field and watched as an army marched towards her. Each soldier was clothed in a black hood and wielded a shadowy sword that appeared to move in the wind. It was as though the swords were living shards of night that merged into the creature that held it.

She gripped her own sword tightly and closed her eyes for a second. They hadn’t stopped advancing for a week. All she’d eaten was a slice of toast, and sleep had become a distant memory. Dark circles surrounded her eyes as mercilessly as the army surrounded her and her skin had faded to a grey as though the fighting had sucked the life from her veins.

“Go on then… Man up and get out there!”

Julie’s friend shoved her towards the army with a smirk.

“It won’t be that bad. You have to try. You’re just making a fuss.”

A helpful stranger smiled encouragingly from her other side. Both wore a look of severe and unrelenting sympathy that Julie suspected wasn’t genuine. She took a step toward the army of shadows and dropped to the floor in tears.

“I’m just exhausted from fighting all the time! I don’t think I can do it!” Her words crept out mid sob as a tear made a muddy pathway down her face.

“I know it’s tough, we all get like this sometimes Hun.”

This time it was her colleague who had spoken in that familiar high pitched squeal she used so frequently. She began to reel off a story about how she’d once not slept for a day after an intense night out and had still gone into work the next morning. Julie stopped listening, all she could hear were the taunting cries from the army.

An icy wind shot across the field from the army and Julie began to shake. She wasn’t sure if it was fear or cold. She wasn’t sure if she cared. She would never win this battle while so outnumbered. Her colleague patted her on the back while her friend stared at her and the stranger checked her phone.

The army had stopped moving now, clearly pleased that their presence was felt. Julie knew that her movement would triggor theirs and so remained where she was. Stalemate. It wouldn’t last, how long before they sensed their advantage and stalked over to collect their prize?

Julie felt a tap on her shoulder and looked up. Beside her stood a warrior in torn trousers and a rusted breastplate, smudged makeup and hair that resembled a birds nest more than anything attached to a human. She held out a muddy hand.

“Come on then, let’s do this! You can’t sit here forever but you won’t be fighting alone.”

Mental illness can feel like you’re on a battlefield. You’re constantly fighting the monsters that your brain conjures up, and sometimes that darkness and fear that other people can struggle to see. I want to remind people that mental illness doesn’t make people weak or lazy… It just makes them ill. The battle is real to them, it’s important to remember that!

Wings.

Wings.

When he looked, it wasn’t there.

Gabriel took a seat on the edge of a cloud, dangled his legs off the edge and buried his head in his hands. Around him, the class buzzed with excited A.I.T (Angels in Training) who were about to get their big wings; they’d seen it.Gabriel had failed. This would mean getting held back a year… again.His Junior Wings felt his sadness and drooped at the tips.

As the sky turned to dark grey between the slats of cloud, a figure crossed the horizon to approach the boy who still wallowed in his disappointment.

“Didn’t see it, huh?”

The voice vibrated off every surface until its repeating sounds danced in the air. Gabriel wiped the tears from his face and looked up through puffy eyes at the stranger. He was a balding man in his early forties with round glasses pushed close to his eyes, instead of wearing wings he’d wrapped himself in a white blanket that appeared to have been fashioned from the clouds.

“Nope. Didn’t see it. Didn’t hear the voice last time either, but I’m trying… I guess I’m just not cut out for the big wings.”

With the last word Gabriel’s tears returned, painting darker droplets on the clouds beneath him. The man sat beside him, draping the edge of his blanket around them both.

“What d’you want most in the world? Is it your wings?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Maybe it doesn’t. Humour an old stranger?”

“I guess not my wings… I want people to be loved most of all. But I can’t do that without my wings.”

“Sure you can.”

The man reached inside of his cape and pulled something out, keeping it clutched inside of his hand. He opened his palm and held a minute key out to Gabriel. It emitted a slight glow and quivered when he picked it up and examined its every angle.

“When everyone else looked as instructed, you hesitated. Not out of disinterest or laziness but you saw something, what did you see?”

“How d’you know that?”

“What did you see, Gabriel?”

“A little girl, crying. She’d torn her wing.”

“Yes…”

“So I went to help her, showed her where her teacher was.”

“And then you were late back. You didn’t see it.”

“No, and now I’m going to get moved back a year. Who are you anyway? How d’you know my name?”

“I’m what everyone saw of course. But you stopped to help someone in need, to be kind and loving. That’s more important than blind obedience.”

Gabriel turned the key over in his hand and smiled.

“Really?” He turned back to the man.

But when he looked, he wasn’t there.

 

While trawling through magazines and prompt books looking for inspiration I found this, an old competition that has since ended. The challenge to begin and end a story with the line ‘when he looked, it wasn’t there’. I’ve changed the word ever so slightly but this is what I’ve come up with. It’s turned out sounding a little deep and religious but it wasn’t really meant that way at all. I guess Gabriel and the mysterious man took over their story this time…

 

 

Settling down.

Settling down.

Well I didn’t get rid of the cat, seems like they love the stupid creature so it isn’t going anywhere. I’ve tried working on her so that she’ll just leave but that isn’t working either. No matter how much I chase her around and get on her nerves she sticks around like the rodent she is. I’ve discovered that I kind of like the danger anyway, winding her up until she hisses at me is a bit scary but it’s a pretty intense buzz. The adrenaline kicks in and I run (faster than her) but I can always come back for more later.

I chase dogs too sometimes. When mum takes me to the field and unhooks me from the lead I get to run free. There are normally loads of other dogs around and I get to make some friends while the cat’s locked in at home. She can’t steal attention while I’m at the field. They take me to training too, it’s a bit like school and can be a bit of a drag sometimes. But – oh boy! The treat quota while I’m there is heavy. All I have to do is touch a hand with my nose, or maybe sit down and clickclick there’s a treat for me. Easy.

I got a new bone this week, bright yellow and deeeee-licious. I pretend it’s cat flavoured and rip it to shreds. She should be scared and run away but I don’t think she realises. It doesn’t really matter though, she spends most of her time curled up on a dining-room chair sleeping. I’ve never seen anyone sleep so much in my life, there are so many things to do besides sleep! You can run, that’s my favourite. You can play tug of war or fetch. You can find one of the people and they’ll give you a good belly rub…

I love belly rubs. I try to keep my eyes open but it’s so heavenly it’s a tough job. They’ve used them to coerce me before though… into the bath! The worst experience. Come on Noche, there’s a good girl, ooh a nice doggy massage. NO. A nice doggy massage is a belly rub, it is definitely not having gooey sticky shampoo rubbed into my fur. Then they turn the water on and it hisses like the cat and rains on me! It’s warmer than rain which is better, but still not good. When I get out I always give myself a big shake all over them, serves them right for shoving me in the shower and getting me all wet.

But mostly it isn’t too bad here. I have my toys, my bed and my sofa. I have my people, and I don’t have to share them too much because I don’t actually think the cat’s that keen on their attention. I guess I’ll just have to get used to her… and those damn baths!

Freedom.

Freedom.

The dog’s gone out. Emma comes outside and calls walkies with the same patronising tone they use for children, then she attaches some sort of rope-like contraption to her collar and away they go. Then it’s time to celebrate: from the moment they leave I have about forty-five minutes of freedom! I can walk around without her following me… some of us don’t need a lead to go for a walk. They get proud of the dog if she jumps to their hand, can jump over fences and don’t get rewarded for it. But I suppose the only reward I need is the knowledge of my blatant superiority.

Anyway so they’ve taken the dog out. The first thing I do is see if she’s left any food behind; my food may be that stuff with gravy and real chunks of meat but I don’t mind slumming it now and then with a mouthful of dog biscuits – especially if I’ve already eaten my own food as a starter. She never eats all of her food anyway, the stupid mutt doesn’t understand the worth of  a good bit of meat; I’d eat it while she was home but she’d get up in my face if I did that. Next I steal her water. Since the clumsy oaf keeps knocking mine over with her gigantic bumbling nose, I think it’s only fair to sneak some of hers while she’s away… it’s important to stay hydrated after all.

Once I’m fed and watered it’s time for a bit of unadulterated attention from my humans. I love a good nuzzle, and a scratch behind my ears. They sometimes pick me up for a cuddle which is slightly irritating but it’s worth putting up with for the extra affection. It’s so much nicer to get loved up without that pesky dog jumping up at me, she gets so jealous she seems to forget that I was here first!

So once I’ve fulfilled my love quota I pop back to her bowl for another slurp and then see what the weather’s doing. If it’s not looking too shabby outside I’ll do a bit of sunbathing, I find the warmest piece of floor and nap in it. Glorious. Unfortunately though my humans seem to have chosen a fairly grim place to live in terms of the weather, which frequently destroys the possibility of sunbathing. On these occasions I hole up under the dinner table and have a peaceful nap on one of the chairs. Or even the sofa since I’m allowed on it – yet another advantage of not being a scruffy (and rather ginormous) dog.

Inevitably the dog will wake me up soon, but those forty-five minutes of freedom are perfect. Dog-free is just the way I like my life to be. If only they’d get rid of her permanently, I’d thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet… maybe I’ll tell the humans that I’m allergic? Not that they’d understand me: humans are so bad at learning languages, and they never even tried to learn cat.

Moving in.

Moving in.

I have met the love of my life.

I knew it from the moment I met her one sunny afternoon. She’d come to visit me at the foster home, my sister was there too with some different visitors who’d taken quite a shine to her. I was worried because I don’t have a tail, and all dogs know that wagging is a proven method of bagging an adoption. But she loved me anyway, or perhaps even more for it, and I ended up going home with her.

The first sign of imperfection was revealed on the journey home – a car. Why anyone would like to sit in such a machine is beyond me. It launches you from one side to the other so that you slide across violently in the back. I thought it would be the end for me, the end of my pitiful life at six months old.

So I was understandably excited to arrive home and escape from the metal box on wheels that they travel in. For a few days I was the jewel of the household. Mum let me snuggle on the sofa with me while she curled up with a book. She played tug of war with me in the garden. She let me sleep with her sock and bought a brand new teddy bear just for me. It was heaven.

But then I met her.

The demon creature that lives in the conservatory.

The cat.

At first I thought: well here is a new playmate, I can’t wait to meet her! But she hissed whenever I got close, and stuck her hackles up like spears on her back. She even made a swipe for me when the humans weren’t looking! So I kept my distance, and glued myself to mum’s heels.

But then the unthinkable happened – mum picked the cat up. She stroked the thing tenderly, as though she actually loved it! Although how anyone could love that thing is beyond me, all she does is lie there until there’s some food to steal. The little Cat-thief! At first I felt dejected that mum hadn’t taken my side in our feud, but then it morphed into anger.

Now I’m ready to take this demon cat down.

 

noche-getting-some-love
Noche enjoying a cuddle.